Every human culture has a musical tradition. So why do we love music? If you think about it, isn’t it remarkable that we perceive certain tones, patterns, and intervals as ‘music’ among the many noises in the world?
Brain scientists continue to study this uniquely human mystery. Now they are even using advanced imaging to map the parts of the brain that operate when we’re listening to our favourite tunes or singing a song. And scientists are finding more and more health benefits we gain from music, beginning at birth and lasting through the end of our lives.
Music connects us with others: Experts say our culture is experiencing an epidemic of loneliness – and as we grow older, it becomes more challenging to stay socially connected. Music is an excellent tool for creating bonds among people, cutting across backgrounds, abilities and generations. Imaging shows that when a group of people perform or listen to music together, their brains show coordinated neurological responses to the rhythms and mood, resulting in a feeling of connection and togetherness.
Music is great exercise for the brain: Neurologists tell us that following and interpreting the melody, anticipating patterns, and making sense of a piece of music gives the brain a good workout. Brenda Hanna-Pladdy from Emory University says: “Musical activity throughout life may serve as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of ageing.”
Music can be an excellent stimulus for life review: One of older adults’ most essential ‘tasks’ is to look back on their lives, reminiscing, recollecting, and putting everything into perspective. This provides a sense of purpose and meaning. Stored in the brain along with particularly vivid memories, music helps us visualise a particular time and our place in it.
Music can be a powerful tool for people with memory loss: What about a life review when a person has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia? Music is stored differently in the brain than speech, so it can bring forth recollections that mere words cannot. The cognitive and emotional effects of music help people with dementia connect with their own memories, other people and the world around them. Music also reduces agitation and anxiety and improves their sleep.
It can promote stroke recovery: The American Heart Association reports that stroke survivors experience enhanced improvements in balance and strength when they listen to music during rehabilitation sessions. Just as is the case with memory loss, music may help patients access a different part of the brain involved in movement and coordination. Music also lessens depression among stroke survivors.
Music provides peace and comfort for people at the end of life: Many hospice organisations use music therapy to meet patients’ emotional, spiritual, and social needs. Studies show music increases feelings of well-being and transcendence and emotionally connect the patient with family and others present. It also can reduce pain.
Source: Elder Advisory Group